Francisco ‘Chico’ Whitaker Ferreira is a Brazilian architect, politician and social activist who has worked for democracy and against corruption throughout his life. He is one of the key people behind the World Social Forum.  Whitaker lived and worked in France and Chile as a researcher and advisor for the Catholic Committee Against Hunger, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, and the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, among other organizations.

In addition to being part of the Advisory Board of Wikileaks, Whitaker is also a founding member of the nongovernmental organization Transparência Brasil, which is affiliated to the Transparency International and aims to fight against corruption in Brazil. He also is a member of the World Future Council. The World Future Council brings the interests of future generations to the centre of policy making.

Whitaker both conceived the idea, and was instrumental in the implementation, of a ‘Bill of Popular Initiative’: he helped collect one million signatures against electoral corruption, particularly the purchase of votes. Whitaker sits as the CBJP's representative on the National Committee of the Movement Against Electoral Corruption, created after the approval of the Bill, which involves more than twenty of the major national civil society organizations in Brazil. More than 650 mayors, councilors, deputies, senators, and state governors, who were found to have been involved in electoral corruption, have lost their mandates.

In 2000 Whitaker was one of those who conceived the idea of the World Social Forum (WSF) and played a key role in bringing it to realization. The vision was to hold a large conference event, a parallel to the World Economic Forum in Davos, to share the various insights of those from around the world who were working for alternatives to “world domination by capital, within the parameters of neoliberalism.” The slogan was ‘Another World is Possible’. The project was taken forward by eight leading Brazilian organizations, operating by consensus. Today, Whitaker is a member of the WSF International Council, representing it in the Brazilian Commission on Justice and Peace.

From their beginning in 2001, the Forums have been much more than just meeting places. They have become platforms for civil society organizations from all around the world to exchange views, form coalitions, work on concrete strategies, and coordinate campaigns. Whitaker attributes the success of the Forums to their organizing principles: horizontality, non-directivity, respect of diversity, no spokespersons, no final document or orientations, self-organization of the participants’ activities in the Forums.

In 2006, Whitaker received the Right Livelihood Award, an annual prize given since 1980 to support people who not only dedicate themselves to advocating for social justice and the environment, but who live according to those principles.

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